14 Japanese artists depict water in new Bellagio gallery

Updated July 5, 2018 - 4:40 pm

Outside Bellagio, extravagant fountains shoot choreographed water jets into the desert air multiple times an hour.

Inside Bellagio, water also plays a primary — but not always literal — role in a new exhibit at the hotel-casino’s Gallery of Fine Art.

“Primal Water” spotlights 14 Japanese artists, spanning four generations, whose works explore water as the life-giving, thirst-quenching entity that makes existence possible in the Mojave Desert or on islands floating in the middle of the sea — and as a metaphor for life itself.

After all, water may be colorless and literally fluid, but it’s also inescapable, as exhibit curator Midori Nishizawa observes.

“It can go anywhere without distinction,” she says, citing a quote from ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “ ‘Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.’ ”

The exhibit itself echoes Lao Tzu’s observation, flowing beyond the gallery to an adjacent screening room — where visitors can see three shorts by filmmaker Nao Yoshigai, including 2017’s aptly titled “Across the Water” — and on to Aria’s lobby atrium. There, a reconstruction of the late Sadamasa Motonaga’s 1956 installation “Water” features pools of colorful liquid inside clear plastic tubing.

Meanwhile, back in the Bellagio gallery, Motonaga’s 1963 painting “Red and Yellow” explores a more abstract fluidity.

Other works are more conceptual, such as artist Rei Naito’s “Untitled” and “human,” which pair a jar of water with a tiny figure. “It’s about the nurturing aspect of water,” Nishizawa says.

The earliest works featured in “Primal Water” include photographs by Shoji Ueda, including a misty 1933 “Seascape” and family portraits from the Tottori Sand Dunes, which undulate like waves, in the background of a portrait depicting “Papa, Mama, and the Children.”

And scientist Ukichiro Nakaya’s 1939 film “Snow Crystals” documents his research on the formation of snowflakes.

Speaking of snowflakes, an apparent blizzard has struck Yasuaki Onishi’s “Vertical Emptiness BG, 2018” — a site-specific installation featuring local mesquite branches, suspended from the gallery ceiling, and sprayed with hot glue and liquid urea that, when dry, crystallizes “like a snowscape,” the curator says. “In the summer, in Las Vegas.”

Glue also plays a primary role in Onishi’s “Plate of phenomena 14FI,” providing eddying layers of texture in a wall panel that looks as though it could have been made from frozen black water — or hardened lava.

Even humble bars of soap, still emitting faint fragrances, inspire Noe Aoki’s stacked shapes resembling Inuit igloos or Native American tepees.

Overall, on an everyday basis, everyone can relate to the water, Nishizawa says. But the visions of the artists represented in “Primal Water” may prompt exhibit visitors to heighten their awareness toward water as a source of life, she adds. “I want people to talk about it a little and come up with ideas — to look at something with a new, fresh eye.”

Artist-in-residence Kisho Mwkaiyama

Kisho Mwkaiyama is used to the relative solitude of his studio in Japan.

For the next six months, however, the artist is working in a very different sort of studio: a public one, in a bustling Strip casino, where visitors can watch him work.

In conjunction with the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art’s new Japanese-themed “Primal Water” exhibit, Mwkaiyama will be in residence in a studio next door, creating a series of 24 paintings — using watercolors, of course — titled “Vendarta 100: Six Elements and the Seasons.”

The six elements — water, land, fire, consciousness, wind and emptiness — come from Buddhist philosophy. (Which, as a Buddhist monk, Mwkaiyama definitely understands.)

The gleaming, shimmering colors the artist will use in his 24 paintings — each 3-by-3-foot canvas featuring 50 layers of paint — will reflect the changing seasons, Mwkaiyama explains during an interview in his Bellagio studio.

In addition, the color changes according to the light, he says, via translator Mieko Hirai Braun.

“This is kind of an unusual setting,” Mwkaiyama says of the Bellagio studio, adding that his life as an artist in Japan is “completely opposite compared to Las Vegas. These are two completely different environments.”

Mwkaiyama’s journey from Japan to Las Vegas began when MGM Resorts chairman James Murren — or, as the artist refers to him, “Jimmy-san” — saw his works at a Tokyo gallery and invited him to come and create in Las Vegas.

A preliminary visit, before the start of his residency, was his first Las Vegas experience. “I really, really strongly feel the energy of the earth and water,” the artist says of his initial impressions. “And also everyone smiling.”

Mwkaiyama plans one trip back to Japan during his six-month stay, to “heal myself and cleanse my spirit.” But Las Vegas isn’t as spiritually empty as some might think, he adds. “In the Buddhist teaching, the human being needs desire and also to enjoy wealth and having a relaxing time,” he says. “It’s divine sin.”

During his visit, “I really want to incorporate the whole energy — the energy of the people, the energy of the air,” he says. “That’s the only way I can paint.”

Contact Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

Entertainment Videos
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of theatre talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N interactive exhibit
The new exhibit features original and recreated props and plenty of interactive features. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ice cream shop offers everything in the kitchen sink
Have you ever wanted to eat an ice cream sundae out of a kitchen sink? Who hasn't, right? At Sloan's, located inside the Venetian, you can do just that. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Maxie’s in Las Vegas puts eggs Benedict in a box
Chef David Mangual at Maxie’s in The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas makes his eggs Benedict in a brioche “box” layered with spinach, bacon and tomatoes and topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caviar Twinkie Served at Stripsteak in Las Vegas
Stripsteak Executive Pastry Chef Vivian Chang and Chef Gerald Chin create a novel savory food item that looks like a familiar sweet treat at the restaurant in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
NAB attendees battle to qualify for Fortnite event
NAB is sponsoring an online video game event with Epic Games’ Fortnite allowing attendees to qualify to go head to head with top players. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Arctic Shrimp Sandwich at Saga near Las Vegas
Chef Gert Kvalsund, a native of Norway, founded Saga Pastry + Sandwich in Henderson to give Scandinavians a taste of home. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk UNLVino
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk about the upcoming UNLVino vent. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Christie Brinkley at Smith & Wollensky
Christie Brinkley, in town for her run in “Chicago” at the Venetian Theatre, paid a visit to the Grand Canal Shoppes’ still-under-construction Smith Wollensky on Monday for a ceremonial first toast at the bar. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas
2 artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside Kaos nightclub and dayclub
A look at new club at Palms.
CinemaCon Brings Theater Professionals To Caesars
CinemaCon is not just celebs, it's also a place where theater owners can browse the latest in seats, projectors and concessions. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas restaurants provide a taste of ballpark food
The Las Vegas Ballpark, home to the Las Vegas Aviators, will serve food from Giada De Laurentiis and a team of favorite local restaurants. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Taste of the Town: Bobby Flay Opens Shark at the Palms - VIDEO
Bobby Flay opens Shark at the Palms; his first high-end restaurant in 15 years.
Chef Marc Marrone at T-Mobile Arena
Chef Marc Marrone has opened a bao cart at T-Mobile Arena. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio fountains celebrate 'Game of Thrones'
A medley of the theme for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the song “Winter Is Here” from the show premiered at the Bellagio Fountains water show on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The new number will run in rotation through April 13. The series premieres its eighth and final series on April 14. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan Aunt Chippy talks about being on Jimmy Kimmel's show
Concetta Potenza, Aunt “Chippy” to Jimmy Kimmel, talks about her first time being featured on her nephew’s show. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro at Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro At Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cotton candy crowns pancakes in Las Vegas
At Maxie’s at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, executive chef David Mangual fills pancakes with fruit and cream cheese and piles on pastel cotton candy, which is melted in a stream of chocolate syrup. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Bananas Foster Pancakes go up in flames at The Stove near Las Vegas
Chef Antonio Nunez at The Stove in Henderson, near Las Vegas, flames the pancakes tableside for a fiery presentation. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
El Loco Rollercoaster at Circus Circus' Adventuredome
The El Loco rollercoaster opened at the Circus Circus' Adventuredome in February 2014. It features a 90-foot ascent, followed by a drop that produces a negative 1.5 "verticle G," a 180-degree turn, and reverse 240-degree roll that turns into an inverted drop. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 45 mph and is the only indoor coaster of it's kind in the U.S., and is the second indoor El Loco coaster in the world, according to MGM Resorts.
Bartending flair competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show
Highlights from the ten contestants who competed for the Shake It Up Flair and Classic Competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Justin Kingsley Hall shares details on his next gig
Chef Justin Kinglsey hall shares some details about the newArts District restaurant he's developing with Kim Owens. (Al Mancini/Las Vegs Review-Journal)
Film prompted Carrie Hogan to found 2 farmers markets in Las Vegas
Carrie Hogan founded Fresh 52 Farmers and Artisan Market in Las Vegas after realizing she had to do something about the influence of factory farms on the food supply. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seafood dishes being made at Pasta Shop near Las Vegas
Executive chef Edwin Martinez incorporates fresh pasta into Lobster Salmon and Saffron Shrimp Sauté at Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson, near Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Home Front Page Footer Listing